“A sign of hope, peace and reconciliation”. Father Euphrem Audrey Hasimana, a priest from the diocese of Morondava (Madagascar), described in these three words the journey that Pope Francis will make from 4 to 10 September to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius. He made the remarks at a meeting in Rome this morning, organised by the Association ISCOM, connected to the University of the Holy Cross. The priest recalled the motto chosen for Madagascar, “Sower of Peace and Hope”, and went on to explain: “The Pope is the sower of hope; he will help us to deal with the difficulties of life. He is a sower of peace who will encourage us to build a vital relationship with others and he is a sower of reconciliation who will encourage us to forgive others”. In the logo created for the visit, the country is represented by the traveller’s palm, “Ravinala”, and by the baobab tree. The Pope and the images of some saints are also depicted, which testifies to a country of missionary disciples and witnesses to the faith, even to martyrdom. Father Hasimana recalled that the Catholic Church in Madagascar has experienced a “brutal” history of martyrdom with the killing of French missionaries. Last year, Lucien Botovasoa, a primary schoolteacher and Franciscan tertiary, was beatified. He was killed for his Christian faith on 14 April 1947 during the persecutions that accompanied the independence of the island. The country is faced with many problems, including poverty, the political crisis, and severe deforestation, with up to 80% of the country’s forests destroyed, and a drought which is jeopardising agricultural activities. “All this generates a serious problem of security in the country – Father Hasimana said – which the government is trying to address”. Despite the problems, the Church in Madagascar “is alive, full of hope, and grows”. “What do we expect from Pope Francis? That he encourages us to live the faith. We are deeply moved by his teaching on poverty and equality. He is one of us coming home”.